A Kind of Freedom
We had not gone far when Laurel turned to me. “You said you would tell me of the cause of the peril we find ourselves in when we left the cabin. We are now some distance away, so who or what is the author of our danger?”
I drew a deep breath and told her about Eleanor and her plans and my part in them. Laurel listened quietly, and then bade me stop. She faced me and suddenly embraced me with such force that I nearly fell over backward. “Oh, my dear, dear, Caleb. You have been so much and yet you have remained faithful to me. Was there ever such a man as this? Witness to it, ye heavens, that it may be written in the stars for all to see.”
We stood there a while in each other’s arms, until I gently took myself out of our embrace. “I would recall to you that I am but a man, but a fortunate one to be so esteemed by the woman I loved. We set out again on our way.
I had no clear plan other than to travel southward down the Valley until we hit upon a fortuitous place wherein we might dwell. I did not know what that might be, or where it lay, but determined to rely on Providence for our care.
We stopped for the night after about three hours of travel, and I built a small fire and situated it so as not to draw attention. Laurel had brought some potatoes, and I drew water from a small stream nearby and all three of us feasted on the product of Laurel’s labors. And once again, it was far better than the fine food served in Eleanor’s mansion, because I was free and with those I loved.
Laurel made pallets on the forest floor, and lay Caleb on one. He promptly went to sleep, not doubt fatigued by the journey and the changes this day had brought him. We reclined and talked a while, and then fell into each other’s arms and took our pleasure with each other there under the trees and stars. I then turned over and fell into a deep and mercifully dreamless sleep.
I was awakened the next morning by the smell of coffee and opened my eyes to see Laurel bending over our little fire.
I rose from my pallet and went over to her. “Good morning,” I said, kissed her. She kissed me back.
“Good morning. Are you hungry?”
“Is Jeff David the President of the Confederacy?”
“That last I heard,” she said, and we both laughed.
“How did you get the coffee? It’s so hard to come by in these parts.”
“I kept some by for a special occasion. And if having your back isn’t special, I don’t know what it.”
She took a small frying pan from her basket and broke a couple of eggs into it and set it on the fire, along with four strips of bacon. Soon the food was hot, and she removed it from the fire and put it on some wooden plates she had brought along.
“What else do you have in that basket?” I asked her.
“Many and mysterious things, which you shall soon see,” she replied.
We fell to devouring our food, hungry from the business of the previous afternoon and our long walk. Caleb began to stir on his pallet. Laurel went over to him.
“What are you going to feed him?” I asked.
“I have some johnnycakes and dried beef that he’ll like. He eats them right up.”
“He’d make a good soldier, then,” I said, and we both laughed, although my experience with the army showed me I never wanted my son to be a soldier.
We finished our breakfast and Caleb his food, and I stood up. “We’re better get going,” I said.
“Where are we going” Laurel wanted to know.
“I do not know. I will know the place when I get there.”
“You sound like someone from the Bible.”
“My name is from the Bible. Perhaps we shall come to dwell in the Promised Land.”
She looked at me with her face shining. “Anywhere with you is my Eden. You are my love.”
I was so overwhelmed with my love for her that I could not speak. I embraced her for a long time, and then we broke apart. “I could stay like that forever, but we must be on our way.”
“We will stay together forever, some day.”
“Well I know.”
We that, we packed up and started down the path, she and Caleb leading, I behind them. “Why do you not walk with us?” she asked.
“It is the better to see around us and discover any threats to our well-being.”
“That makes a great deal of sense.” She laughed. “I shall lead our merry little band on, then.”
We walked for about four hours and came across a clearing, more of a meadow, actually, and stopped.
“This would be a good place to make our lunch a picnic,” Laurel murmured.
“Perhaps this is the Eden of which you spoke.”
“If you will recall, my paradise is with you, but this is indeed a fair and welcoming place. We shall eat here.”
I put my pack and Laurel her basket on the ground, and she set Caleb down to crawl and explore while she fixed lunch. We ate, and afterwards, we lay back and in the full sunlight, fell asleep. I did not wonder that I should be so fatigued, since I had walked from Georgetown that day before, and Laurel was now doubt tired from her preparations for our journey. And so we were insensible for some time.